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Series #29: Athletics at Indians - Round Two

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Indians’ Current Record:

48-37, first place in the AL Central. The Indians swept the Royals this week after taking the final game of the series in Oakland.

Possible Lineup:

Francisco Lindor - SS

Michael Brantley - LF

Jose Ramirez - 3B

Edwin Encarnacion - DH

Yonder Alonso - 1B

Lonnie Chisenhall - RF

Yan Gomes - C

Jason Kipnis - 2B

Rajai Davis - CF

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Carlos Carrasco - RHP

Corey Kluber - RHP

Shane Bieber - RHP

Recent Bullpen Usage:

While cruising to three straight wins against the Royals, the Indians didn’t have to lean too heavily on the bullpen this week, and every reliever should be available for this weekend’s series.

Hottest Hitter(s):

Francisco Lindor has reached base in half of all his plate appearances this week, and has hit for surprising power. The young phenom has hit nearly as many home runs over the last year or so as Khris Davis, and has four long balls this week to further add to his totals.

Coldest Hitter(s):

Though he always plays well against the A’s, Edwin Encarnacion has not been his best self this week. The mighty righty only has two hits in his last twenty one at bats, and hasn’t been the run producer Cleveland’s lineup is dependent on him being.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

Standing out amongst the starting pitching staff is Trevor Bauer, who has notched sixteen strikeouts in fourteen innings pitched over his last two starts. The bullpen, which was shaky entering Oakland for last weekend’s series, has been lock down this week, nearly every reliever able to keep runs off the board in all of their appearances.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

In part, thanks to the A’s, it has been a perfectly mediocre last week for the Indians’ starting pitching staff. Other than Bauer, no Cleveland starting pitcher has gone deeper than six innings in a game, and no starter has given up fewer than three runs in the effort.

Key Injuries:

There aren’t any many changes on the injury front for the Indians, other than Carlos Carrasco returning to the team’s roster after being placed on the DL a couple of weeks ago.

* * *

The A’s aren’t returning home until after the All Star Break, but there is a very significant road trip the team is going on between now and then. The first six games of the trip are at the home parks of division leaders, the Indians and Astros, before the team goes to San Francisco to play the first half of the Bay Bridge Series, a series for which there is now a trophy and more pride on the line. The A’s have been taking advantage of a lighter schedule to propel themselves upwards in the standings and place themselves in the wild card conversation, but the team will have to continue to play well against tougher competition in order to stay in the conversation.

The Indians are now coasting to a division title, despite a slow start to the year and a sub-.500 record on the road as a team. With every other team in the AL Central rebuilding or stuck in a worst-case scenario type of season, and with the best overall record likely to be claimed by another team, the key for Cleveland at this point is to stay as healthy as possible. They are all but guaranteed a playoff spot, and should be a difficult obstacle for any playoff team to overcome.

Game #88: Friday, July 6th, 4:05 - NBCSCA, Sportstime Ohio, MLB Network, MLB.tv

Paul Blackburn vs Carlos Carrasco

Blackburn has had a hot-and-cold season with the Athletics thus far, and will seek to duplicate his success from his last start against the Indians last weekend. Carrasco will be making his first start since returning from the DL, having been sidelined with an elbow injury after being hit in the arm with a line drive in the middle of June.

Game #89: Saturday, July 7th, 1:05 - NBCSCA, Sportstime Ohio, MLB.tv

Edwin Jackson vs Corey Kluber

Jackson has exceeded all expectations since joining his record-setting thirteenth ballclub, helping the team win in each of his first two starts. The Indians are one of the few teams Jackson has yet to be a part of. Corey Kluber is typically excellent, but recently turned in a dud of an outing on June 26th, giving up six runs in less than two innings pitched before getting removed.

Game #90: Sunday, July 8th, 10:10 - NBCSCA, Sportstime Ohio, MLB.tv

Frankie Montas vs Shane Bieber

Some of the luster has been wearing off of Montas the last couple of weeks, but the power pitcher still has too good of stuff to be written off just yet. Bieber is an intriguing rookie who has seen his career get off to a very solid beginning. The whole A’s squad will be getting their first looks against him on Sunday morning.